Prolog: The Devil, Armageddon, and the Antichrist bet against love
The One-No-One-Even-Knows-His-Proper-Name-So-They-Can't-Say-It-Even-If-They-Wanted-To and There-Is-No-Dust-Or-Ashes-To-Bring-Yet hover at the start if the new cycle while other demons and higher powers keep their distance. The former two are making bets as they do at the dawn of every cycle. Erebos, The Unnamed One’s third in command and the embodiment of darkness of the soul, grumbles that it is taking too long for the start of time to start.
"What about you Erebos?" The Bringer asks. One of his many tongues almost scrapes the threshold of the new universe. Erebos barely hides a grimace at the Bringer's clumsy carelessness. "Think you might find someone for yourself in this new round of mortals for a change?"
Erebos sneers. He's cared for some over the cycles. Beings so beautiful he doubts this new universe could possibly come close to recreating.
Unlike his fellows who tend to destroy, he prefers to preserve outer beauty. If their insides don't survive isn't his fault.
"I'm tired of the search," is his only reply.
The Unnamed One smiles as only an endless pit of teeth can. "Don't worry Bringer. Some part of me knows he will find his one-and-forever. It won't be easy; one beautiful enough to catch our Erebos' attention will have their admirers and enemy's alike in droves. He'll have to fight for his beloved, and fight without his natural form just like us."
As if he'd fight for someone else, "I don't mean to contradict you, but..."
"Then don't." The words are quiet and smooth, yet all fall silent and still.
"The two of you are betting on who is right? I merely wish to do the same."
"Oh, let's see if pretty boy can actually make a proper bet! Squishy and smooth, hiding out with sissy most of a cycle before last, and play fighting with her most of the last one. I doubt a slinker like you even knows how to bet!" Slobbering the Bringer proceeds to laugh.
"We were preparing for the next one! This last proved to be more than a bit of a disappointment, to be honest," he grumbles the second bit because, for him at least, it's true. Angry just thinking about it, he adds, "Unlike some who only smash, I spend most of my time creating. My bet is this: if I don't find a beauty I can love, Nyx's favorite Child and all the mortals she loves will be mine forever." Erebos felt proud for the first time in many cycles. It had been a nasty fallout between he and his lovely sister. Her darkness was pure and distinct from his own. She was a being he felt true companionship for. But when it was time to finish the cycle before last, he found her cavorting with their old enemy Apollo. The following battle was so great it hastened the last cycle by a great multitude of years and a winner was yet to be decided.
The Unnamed One nodded, "Agreed!" And with that and a rush of time and space and other things, the next cycle began.
Part 1: The day the music died
When Nyx betrayed me, I vowed to make every attempt to take apart her Children until none were left. She made beautiful Children, blood drinkers, who had to worship under her veil. I made Children so tempting to hers they would be turned and kill her clan. They ended up not just kill hers but everyone, including former members of their family.
Our fighting went on and off for so long; eons on-and-off. I needed a break. One mortal lifetime to refresh and recuperate. At first, I thought nothing of the half-bred Argyris other than if I made another they would not be influenced by my beautiful and devout Children. Perfect if I wished to have some peace developing and adjusting to an unfamiliar body and world.
What a fool I was. Things are never that simple when one bets against The Unnamed One.
My host form trembles. He's in trouble. I shudder, almost waking up prematurely. Peter is a mere child. I desire something stronger for my body.
Whomever dares hurt...!
Alex is here saving us just like he always does in our dreams.
I silently smile and drift off to dream the dreams of gods.
Nyx's favorite Child across cycles reaches out for Alex. Alex dying with only one way out. The sound of The Night Mother, sissy, laughing at it all. I am forced awake, I must save Alex from her, yet it's too soon so I'm groggy and I’m too late so I must watch as Alex becomes one of them.
"Alex?" We ask for the first time as one. Peter feels the change but is too concerned with Alex to care. Later we'll talk. "Alex?!" Again, with one voice.
Our eyes lock and I know what The Unnamed One must have seen when I made the bet. I want Alex in a way Peter can’t quite understand yet because of his human upbringing. I want Alex to take all my blood into him and by doing so make us one forever. This is something purely Argyris, one of my finest creations yet.
Peter did know what he wanted in some sense as he surged forward with all that beautiful Argyris strength.
"Alex! Alex, please. I want my Alex, I want my brother!" he screams even as others hold us apart. Blasphemy! I should kill the lot of them.
"It's okay. I'm okay. Just give me a moment to get over there..." He’s smiling, four fangs extended and eyes as red as human blood; breathtaking yet comfortably familiar. We pull away from Octavia for a moment…
… only to have The Nomad snap us away. His arms around our body are a shock and it’s enough to pop us across the corridors bridging time and space. We've returned to Sanctuary before Alex had a chance to so much as breath on us.
"Let me go! Let me go you blood sucking Night Child! Take me back to Alex now!" I've made a surge to the forefront and it's cost me. I sway in the creature's arms and I know he senses something other in me.
"Night Child? Who are you to demand--?" His head jerks to the side as, suddenly, we all feel a sharp jolt of Alex's distress. He wants us. Not just Peter but I as well. He knows me! On some level, he recognized his creator. It’s enough for the moment.
"Not now. Go, save Alex. Return him home safely." The Nomad just pops back away without another word.
Part 2: A change of plans, a change of perspective
The night of Alex's turning, after letting Peter take over and when everyone thought he was asleep, Peter and I had a talk about who I am and what I am.
I didn't tell him that on some level we are the same being. That I made his body just for my resurgence into this world. Nor that souls can't be made, only re-used from past cycles, so I had to place the soul of a loyal supplicant within this developing flesh as my own would rip it to bits if I emerged too long.
There would be time for that conversation later. I did hint at a family, the Argyris, as the reason he loved his brother so much. He liked that bit even as he swore not to say a word about our true nature. If he was older and I had more time this wouldn't be a problem; I could just shut his mouth whenever the need arose. But I had come into this world before I was ready, so I must suffer a child’s impulsiveness until then.
It's been two years since Alex was changed. We haven't talked much about anything that truly matters, other than his vampirism and need-to-know drivel. Like Demetrius being elected to the Vampire High Council a year ago. We still live at Sanctuary, but that too will be moved soon to Winter Haven at the behest of Alric Koenig. No doubt there's more to it than that. But can I get more information? No! Because Peter just turned fifteen and that's apparently not old enough for "adult" conversations.
I should kill them all.
'Wellllll, not all', I muse as we see Alex run down the stairs. It's obvious he's been arguing with the abomination Demetrius again as he grips the back of his neck and his fangs snap tight. This twitchy behavior has been going on-and-off ever since their trip to Winter Haven seven months ago, but tonight Alex looks like he wants to push Demitrious out into the sun. Peter thinks it's just typical domestic bickering. He remembers his parents and people on TV dramas. It's normal, or so he tells us even as jealousy eats away at his heart. He hasn't put what I've told him about the Argyris and their trip together. It won't be long before something happens to change the odds of the bet. I don't even care that I will most likely loose. I want to! Let sissy have her messed up Children. Eventually, I'll have Alex just as The Unnamed One no doubt wanted. Such a nice Master I serve.
"Pete," Alex sits beside us in our private booth and throws an arm around our shoulders, "I realize we haven't had a lot of time together one-on-one since... Well since my change, I suppose? And even then, there was everything with mom... I'm so sorry. Time as a vampire changes. I look up and it's three months later. And--"
Peter cuts Alex off with a firm hug. Alex smells like blood and various other things he's picked up as vampires don't smell like much on their own; a bit of dust and dry rot. But it's the way Alex feels that's important, that's all Alex and home and everything good in the world. His soft cotton tee-shirt reminds us, or rather Peter as I was asleep, of being held when our, their, mother went out and we, Peter, had a bad dream. The line between Peter and I is blurring as he gets older. This is even more evident as I can't tell who snuggles against firm pectorals and mumbles, "It's okay. I'll love you no matter how long you're away. As long as you don't leave me again, I don’t care about anything else."
Alex holds us for a moment before pulling away enough to look us in the eye, a tight smile pulling at soft lips. "You know I can't promise anything. Life is a bit more complicated than that." The look on our face has him backpaddling, "But not tonight! Tonight is our night. Whatever you want, just short of being illegal or impossible." He drops his head and looks up at us with a look that I'm sure he means to be embarrassed, but all it does is stops our mind and makes us blush. "And I... I love you too, Peter."
The light blush and easy smile are enough to drive Peter to boldness. He leans in, kisses Alex on the cheek, and we all pretend Alex didn't turn his head to the side at the last second.
"Can we go to Winter Haven? I haven’t seen the new place yet and the city is supposed to be super cool and high-tech. It'll be awesome!"
Alex nods and they get ready to go, all the while I plan on when to make my move.
Part 3: There's family and then there's Family
The abomination comes along because of course he does, as does The Nomad a.k.a. "Xavier Fall" because we'd be in danger if we didn't have a full retinue of "heroes" to keep us safe. And to top it all off there's Flynn; Apollo’s delightful spawn. He and his delightful parents and later he and his merry band of freaks took down my Lieutenant in Hamilton Wisconsin shortly after I awoke. He's here because Xavier likes him and Peter views him as a non-threat to Alex... and he's nice. Everyone is soooo flipping nice. Except they're still the enemy by virtue that they're supposedly on the side of good, whatever that means in this age of innocence. I truly don't care about the bet anymore, I'll have won by losing, but as Peter gapes at the city lights and all there is to see, I keep my senses open for allies.
A specter in the shadows turns as it feels me near. I give it a note I wrote as Peter slept for just such an occasion as Peter eats a sample from one of the food stalls.
The rest of the night goes well. Even seeing Alex holding hands with Demetrious is fine because we've decided to stay for two more days to check on a few things with construction. We're staying with the local vampire coven, because, to varying degrees, over half our troop are vampires. At least the coven leader his bonded and his second in command, Lucien Milo and Gregoire respectively, have manners, unlike one brooding red head. They also don’t suspect Peter's true nature, so that’s a boon.
It's the next day before I can do anything else, and what a day it will be. The specter came back before bed time with a reply. My Children know I'm here. Naturally, they want to meet Peter immediately but understand the need to take this at a measured pace. They've already talked to Alex, some. But because of Demetrious' interference, some nonsense involving upsetting Peter has prevented further talks.
Now awake and it being well into the afternoon, I ask Peter if he wants to take a daylight tour of his new home. He agrees, only hesitating a moment before I reassure him only a fool would attack us; and even a fool wouldn't last long if I took over.
A valet offers to drive us on our way out, but she's quickly dismissed with an innocent grin and a "No, thanks! I just want to see the city and stretch my legs. But if Flynn wakes up, tell him to call and we'll hang, okay?" She smiles back returning to her station. The Argyris charm never fails.
We start off on the main street, but quickly turn down an ally over a side street and over a canal bridge. Peter doesn't question why, yet he follows my instruction as though it were instinct.
The homes are nice here at the edge of town but older than most of the buildings downtown or even in the suburbs. It's not The Hill. No one lives here because they're powerful, though most are, nor because of wealth, wealth comes and goes after all. No, as old leaves crunch beneath our sneakers and a dozen or so medium beautifully made log and stone cabins come into view, spread out in a loose spiral with The Family mansion tucked center and to the back, it's just as much Peter smiling as it is I. This is the home of The Argyris. Though they have condos in the city proper and elsewhere, they shun lesser beings from entering this land given graciously by King Alric. He and few others can come and go as they please.
"I'm home," Peter breaths. The smell of wood smoke wafts from every chimney. A rare child runs from a playful pup as his mother watch from the porch swing. Far away the sound of a rifle going off and whooping congratulations. To a stranger, it would appear to be nothing more than a rural community tucked away from the bustling city. Lucky for me, I know better.
A middle-aged man wearing a warm tweed suit and hat approaches. He smiles, if a bit grimly, and tips his hat. "Can I do anything for you son? Are you lost?"
We smile back at him, not angered in the least that he didn't recognize us. It's not every day that your god and creator comes for a visit. "No Sr., I'm here because Lord Erebos sent me."
The man flinches at the name and title. "Can... can I ask who I take to see him?"
"I'm the younger of the two. He'll understand when you announce me." I don't tell him more. As much as I'd like to just announce my true nature and have everyone grovel, it's too soon. I'm not in my full power. There might be danger, even in a sanctuary like this.
"As long as it's what the Lord wishes, come this way."
We feel a shimmer as the magic barrier surrounding the rest of Winter Haven pulls away. It'll be active deep underground in the catacombs and around the property, but no magic outside of Argyris magic exists here. It truly is a sanctuary for my Children, and as such, their natural ability to neutralize all but the greatest of magics gives this place a new scrubbed clean feel despite the age and forest.
We swing and stretch our arms out as we approach the main house. The outside looks like the rest, large wrap around porch with several seating arrangements and tables and bits of other homely decor including two wind chimes playing a cheerful tune. The inside couldn't be more different if a portal opened to a sci-fi video game. Before the door opens our guide pushes one hand to the frame and grabbing our shoulder with the other. A ripple of magic passes through us. The man opens the door and gestures for us to proceed him. Peter stops himself from outright gawking even as wonder fills his thoughts. Every surface is white or gold or silver or black, much of it glass and all elegant done with tact. One wall looks to be mere glass turns out to be a 3D computer screen. When our escort drags a finger across it and says "Lord Erebos" it flickers to a man with pale blond hair and familiar blue-green eyes. No one would question his relation to Alex other than he'd no doubt dwarf him if they were ever in the same room.
My namesake sees us before our guide can say another word. His eyes light up and a smile that could scar a child for life lights his handsome face.
"You! You must be Peter! Rorik, bring the boy to my parlor and send up refreshments fit for a boy his age. It's about time we met!" His smile falls a bit, "And tell my wife that we have a guest, she'll want to know. But don't tell her who it is. I want a moment alone with the young man."
'Rorik' nods, "As my Lord wishes, so will it be." The saying is older than the city proper. 'Some things never change,' I think as we pass a table topped with white and yellow daylily's... and four tablets. The table is probably another computer along with it having discreet ports for computers and other tech.
The second floor is so different from the first I almost face palm at the extravagance of such behavior. It looks like a Victorian era bordello. Red everywhere, large fragrant flower arrangements, lace trim and antique furniture. We hear sounds to match the theme coming from the hallway we pass. Peter’s face would no doubt be as red as the room if not for the dim lighting.
The third and last official floor again takes a shift from the others. The area is bright and there are no separating walls apart from room dividers. Behind each divider is a different art form; culinary, painting, clay, stone, fashion. Some have people working, while others have works waiting to be complete.
Peter asks me why make a house clearly the center of the community and waste it on what boils down to essentially luxury? I tell him he’ll understand when he understands the Agryis.
We reach the attic, a simple set of unremarkable rooms by comparison to the rest of the home. The parlor is reminiscent of the outside with its well-worn wood floors, stone fireplace, taxidermy spread out on far too many surfaces... Is it Peter or I who shakes our head with fond affection for these people. The house is more a shrine to me than a home to them. Their devotion radiates love in the only way vain children can, and I, in turn, love them back with a creator's pride.
"Please have a seat, young Sir. My Lord will be with you momentarily." He leaves with a small bow. We walk to a window overlooking several more houses and the lands beyond. It's so peaceful, serene.
"If only my Alex could be here..."
"He will be Master Erebos, soon enough he will be." The man, Lord Erebos, sets one large hand on our shoulder. It's not out of disrespect, but of comfort for Peter. We are Family.
We smile fondly up at his Lordship. "Thank you, my Child. I wish I could speak more, but I was awoken early and am just now regaining my strength. You and Peter can talk soon for a few hours before he must return to the vampire's compound." He looks pained, so I'm quick to reassure him, "We will return and our Family will be one, soon, just as you said! Know that we go behind enemy lines for the benefit of us all! We'll talk more before I depart, but for now, you and Semele enjoy talking with your grandson."
"Yes, Master; this is a blessing beyond what words can express."
The refreshments arrive homemade veggie fries, sliders with a tray of toppings, pink lemonade and fresh seasonal tarts of all things. Semele isn't far behind. The reunion is truly heartwarming. Apart from a bit of expected bickering between the Lordship and Lady over who loves Peter the most and who cared for his father at all.. and Alex.. and everything else they could pull until I came forth with the threat to walk away, everything was splendid.
By four thirty it's time I took over. The conversation takes on a serious note as the three of us discuss plans for the future. Despite moving to the city in three months, it will be at least five before any communications can be safely established. I tell them about Nyx and Apollo and my bet with The Unnamed One. How all I want now is Alex as Peter or as myself, and how soon there may not be a distinction. "As our Master wishes, so it will be," Lord Erebos intones.
By some luck, no one is awake by the time we get back. I mumble quick thanks to The Unnamed One as we sit down and start playing a video game. It's not long before people meander in. Alex sits on the loveseat with us, smiles, then proceeds to brag and picks up a controller. It's been a good day and looks to be an even better night.
Part 4: White blank page
They're back together, Alex and the Abomination, happier than ever. It took one year nine months and twenty-three days to get so much as a hello back home to the Argyris because of unforeseen problems among the Council of Witches. Puberty. The list of unfortunate events in the past two years three months and fourteen days is nearly endless. To top it off our little outing didn't go as unnoticed as we once thought. Xavier found out and pays more attention than ever. No one mentions anything "supernatural" to me unless they have to. I might as well be purely human, dense apart from fact that Winter Haven attracts more activity than Nilfgaard.
Tonight is my eighteenth birthday. "My" because the line between Peter and I is as thin as a breath in a winter marathon. He still exists, as do I, but we're so used to each other that we think and act and speak as one. We are to go down to the party soon. Have fun and enjoy being an official adult. I know everyone expects me not to leave without a lovely someone, or two. And, why wouldn’t I? I'm young. I'm handsome and charming and the man of the hour.
I pull at my jacket instead of breaking the mirror I'm dressing in front of. I am a demon god and an Agryris heir! Not one of those mortals is worthy enough to lick sewage off my boots.
Noooo, no no no, "I am Peter Bryant. I will have fun because this party is for me. I love Alex as a brother and will not embarrass him because I want to--" 'eat his face as an act of bestial possession' "--do things a human brother would never ever want." I drop my head to the mirror, "Damn me to the Falls, I'm screwed."
"Not yet you're not."
I crack the mirror in my surprise. I wouldn't have been surprised if it was Flynn who walked up. He’s been able to put a glamor on that disguises him as light ever since he found out about his poppa god. But it's not him.
"You know that's seven years’ bad luck, and from what I've heard, that's the last thing you need." The Unnamed One, in this world known as Nathaniel "Nate" Whitney, swivels in my computer chair with an almost wistful smile on his handsome face.
I glair for a second at my feet, more over the pain than over his presence. I turn and bow nearly to the floor. "Master, what takes you from your beloved to be with a pitiful ameba such as myself."
He snorts, "I see you haven’t stopped being a drama queen while playing mortal. It's your eighteenth birthday! Why in all the universe would I miss this! That and half of Winter Haven is downstairs in one capacity or another. I decided to bring Emrys along. And Cole and Stephanus, you know, your old rival and the pretty one who you inspired me to create. Mixing pure seductive power with matching looks and the need to feed off life force itself while the prey is in intense rapture or agony was a stroke of pure genius. Together the two of them can take down anything, thanks to you."
"You mock me Master, as is your right, but if you don't mind I'd rather you get to the point." I'm still bent over. Perhaps having a back ache will be enough to get me out of this party. Then Alex will come up here to give his poor brother a back massage…
"Stand up," he groans. "You'll hurt your back like that, and you wouldn't want to miss your own party. Not when I've done so much to secure you such a lovely present."
I do as he asks, but now I'm curious. "What kind of present?"
"The kind that will help me win our bet. You remember that, don't you? Or has it slipped your piddly little human mind?" He stands, hands thrown up, then shakes his head and starts pacing the room. “You know what? I don't think I know the being who stands before me. Tell me little boy Pete, is it you who control those sheep out there, or is it they who control you?"
I know I'm being baited, but he's right and all I want is to let loose some of this anger I've had bottled up since first I awoke. "I am an Agryis! I am Erebos, your General and god of the darkness that will end all things because it is your wish! People of all types destroy themselves at my alter for you because I will it. I haven't forgotten about our bet, I just want more than what my knowledge encompassed then. I don't care about sissy, though a few of her Children suffering forever wouldn't go amiss." I mumble the last bit as I drop into a leather chair, an arm draped over my eyes.
"Of course that's not what you want. Not what will make you truly happy. I know my dark knight because I know you and it wasn't what I wanted either."
I peek under my arm to find my Master looking at a photo. It's not the one framed in silver, shot with a twelve-hundred-dollar camera and makes Alex look like he's standing in sunlight even though it's night. He's holding the one made by Peter when he was six with popsicle sticks and crayon for his mommy. The picture is old and taken with a disposable camera. It was the only time we had to take a vacation. Daddy was already sick, but he wanted what time we did have to be spent together as a family. How could we know that he was probably remembering what that truly meant? Not that he was in the wrong leaving. I'd gently prodded him to it because I wanted a vacation. During my trip to the Agryis sanctuary, I explained this to Lord Erebos and Lady Semele. There were many tears, but in the end, they pardoned him for my sake.
"The four of you look happy."
"They were. It was the last truly happy memory Peter has before Talon died. Even when it's just Alex and I, Demetrius' brooding glair isn't far away." I wonder how long it would take for vampire eyes to grow back if they happened to get gouged out with a pen cap?
The Unnamed One sets the photo down. Between one blink and another, he's kneeling beside me the way Talon would in order to calm Peter when he was an upset little boy. "You still don't get it, do you?"
"Get what?" I don't mean to sound petulant, but there is still a party to get to. A party where I'll have to see Alex happy with someone who's not me.
"You may be the 'Demon Lord of the Darkness of the Soul', and my second in command, but you are still only a created being. You can't be everything for yourself. You need someone in the dark with you. Someone who is better than you. Someone who accepts you even when you hurt them..."
"Are we talking about me or you?" I joke, but everyone knows by now the story of why Emrys Frost keeps covered up.
The ink black voids that should be eyes narrow for a moment and the room gets just a bit chiller. "I'm talking about all of us. Why do you think your usually all too peaceful 'sissy' would create vampires in the first place? Because she had a bad day?"
"I... I did nothing to her? She went off with Apollo of all beings! She knows how much I hate that shining--"
"You made mortals fear her! Where else was she to go other than to someone who could bring them back to her arms."
I'm quiet for a moment. "I just wanted to protect her. She's so calm and beautiful; what decent brother wouldn't do the same?"
He stands up with arms crossed. "In all the time I've known you, the last thing anyone would say is that you are decent."
"I couldn't care less. No one wants to know me outside of my power. She was the only one, and I pushed her away by trying to help." I say all this a bit flippantly, but then something he said hit me and I'm on my feet. "NO! It is not my fault Alex is a vampire! This may be an act of righteous retaliation, fine, I can accept that. But I've done little else than be a loyal loving brother to him. I haven't hurt him! I'd never hurt him..."
Angry tears stream down my face. I'm a mess. How can I face any of them, much less Alex, like this?
Comforting arms wrap around my shoulders. "Shhhh, shhh, there, there. I'm sure you've been great. Come down with me to the party and I'll tell them I told you a joke so funny that you started tearing up."
I look up, but instead of bleak black, there is only lovely green. "You're Nathaniel Whitney, my Master's human persona."
"Nate, please. And I suppose that's as good a description as I've ever heard."
I walk to my bathroom to splash some water on my face and he follows.
"You're not like me." I give him a blank stare in the sink mirror. "I mean, of course you're not! No one is. But how Peter and you are is different than me and, well, Him, The Unnamed One that is. And you're not even like Cole and The Bringer of Dust and Ashes. He can't come forth without bad things happening. Why is that? I’d ask myself, but I never give out answers when I want them."
I grab a towel and pat my face dry before speaking. Suddenly I feel my age instead of Peter's. "You speak those titles like they're superheroes’, or villains." I look at Nate for any signs of my Master but see none despite the aesthetics being the same. "We are the same in the same way you are like a pig or a lemur or a chimpanzee. You are all mammals. You share most of the same DNA with at least one. You could even get an organ transplant from the pig. But you are not any of them. Each of the beings known to you as 'demons' are the same as these. We consider ourselves higher beings in charge of a force of the universe with our Lieutenants and so on left to manage the small details. Among us, you are equivalent to god, to whom we all must pay our respects. The Bringer represents destruction, that's why he can't be in this world without Cole. I am Erebos, Darkness of the Soul, or Chaos to some. I can be here as I am because in that sense I am a part of every mortal. This is especially true for my supplicants."
"So, is that why you had to 'wake up' for you to be here? Because Peter was innocent?"
I'm not surprised he knows. He is The Unnamed One after all. "Yes," I talk as I walk to the bedroom door. "Everyone wakes up to my reality eventually. I'm just lucky it took as long as it did for him."
We take the elevator down to the entertaining level of the compound, or as it's officially called 'Night Star International'. Alex had asked me what I wanted our new home to be named on my thirteenth birthday. I'd looked into his shining warm eyes and told him what I saw there. I told him that he was my home and he was now my beautiful night star. He'd just laughed the way he does when we connect on an Agryis level of brotherly affection. I was serious but let it pass for his sake.
The party on the lower floors may indeed have half the city, but this floor only has guests I personally invited. Suffice it to say, the list is short. Everyone who lives here including a few off-duty staff. King Alric and his son Prince Ethan are here because they must be here; they are the literal royal family of Winter Haven after all. There are a few people "my own age", but they are either here for mutually beneficial endeavors, or are secretly my supplicants. I'd found a few in the dredges of society and had them trained for my various needs, such as spies and sleeper agents just in case. None are possessed lest Flynn, who's developed a demon sense, and others find out.
"Happy birthday!" a chorus of voices rise up. Music starts up and I'm bombarded by well-wishers. I sigh with a smile, just soaking in the attention for the celebration that it is.
I've made the rounds both upstairs and down, eaten my fill of "birthday food", danced a bit, had people sing the song. Now it's time for presents and my eyes stray to Nate. What could The Unnamed One possibly have gotten me? He doesn't hate me, I hope, I'm one of his best most loyal followers, so it can't be something bad. Or no worse than what can be expected from him.
One present then the next. I'm only aware of the gifts from Nate and Alex. I see Nate's eyes flash black for a second as two one-way tickets to Greece are pulled from an envelope. Alex stares over my shoulder with a troubled look in his usually joyful eyes. Only Xavier and King Alric appear to note our odd behavior, but say nothing before Babette is placing Alex's gift in my hands.
"Happy birthday Peter." Whether he means to or not, Alex talks right in my ear. His air cool breath has me swallowing a few times before I open the silver box.
My breath catches and my heart clenches. Inside is a silver ring stamped with a turquoise moon. Does he know the significance of such a gift? That Agryis translates to 'silver'? That giving a gift of a silver ring on silver chains in a silver box was as good as begging one to marry another among the Agryis? One might mean a token of one's affection, but all three?
"Alex..." I know he doesn't consciously know, but everything in us wants him to. Perhaps he knows more than given credit for? He'll feign ignorance here and later run away with me to Greece. There, he'll woo me for a few weeks until I at long last give in. In a matter of seconds, I'm flushed and nearly miss Alex's next words.
"It's a signet ring. It’s been enchanted by Nyssandra King so when you touch the moon you can feel my emotions and if I’m okay or not. I have its match so I can do the same if we both wear them. I figure since we don't have any more blood family that we could have something just for the two of us."
What drives my next words I cannot say, only that both I and the part of me that is Peter pricks viciously at the mention of blood family. Cocking my head to the side, I catch The Unnamed One's eyes for just a second and he's smiling, "But it's not just the two of us, Alex. We are Agryis, or don't you know."
I'm not sure if I've breathed or screamed the words. It's one of those moments in life when time seems to stand still and speed up and everyone is left feeling raw after. The last time it happened was the moment Alex became a vampire and plead for me to come to him. I know in this moment that it was for Alex I awoke. Alex called to me, not Peter, or not just him. I, the darkness that burns and boils in hearts until they bleed others or themselves. I for whom demons such as Cybella beg favors from. I whom vanity and greed and envy follow like a fine train... am at the beck and call of one young man because I'm in love.
The revelation of truth hits me harder than seeing sweet Nyx in the arms of Apollo. Before another word can be uttered by Alex or I, a familiar voice booms across the room, "He knows Master, but others have deterred him from taking any progressive actions."
Everyone is now looking at Lord Erebos. On his arm, Semele looking like the human vision of Athena. The Unnamed One draws my eye once again. I'm sure I am the only one who can see him as he is in that moment. He mouths "happy birthday" with a tip of his head. Whatever happens here is meant to be. I bow my head in acceptance of his will even as the part of me that is Peter is throwing a fit because he's afraid of losing Alex over this. When I look up, the Lord and Lady stand before me.
"Master?" Xavier speaks for the first time that I've heard tonight. He's been watching out for trouble, and now his eyes fall to me. "Why would Erebos, clan leader of the Agryis call you 'Master' Peter?" His voice is its typical light tone. No condemnation and no vicious undercurrent; it's a trick out of my own book. If not for our predicament I'd feel proud Nyx taught her Children so well. "I'll ask one last time Peter, and you will answer me: who are you?"
"What do you mean who is he, Master?" Alex's voice is sharp, angry, yet still respectful. Xavier says no more as everyone else waits for my answer.
I stand and grab Alex's present as I rise. Pocketing the box, I turn to look at Alex's handsome face perhaps for a very long time. "Put it on me, Alex?" I ask softly, holding out the silver chain. It's just the two of us. Just the Bryant brothers. No Demetrious glaring because he hates everyone with whom Alex shows any affection to, or Flynn trying to look sympathetic because we both lost our parents, or Xavier acting calm thinking he knows so much despite not even knowing his own history. Our truest ally, besides The Unnamed One himself, surprisingly is Prince Ethan, the son of King Alric and supplicant to The Unnamed One. I can feel him walk up to us as Alex places the chain around my neck.
With one hand, I brush Alex's cheek, "You know who I am Alexander. When you're ready, follow me home. I love you my beautiful Night Star." I draw his face forward with just the tips of my fingers and softly kiss his lips. Hardly a touch. But it's enough for what it conveys.
As Ethan gently directs me to Lord Erebos and Lady Semele, Alex grabs at my arm, "Wait! Why can't you stay here? How do I know you?"
It hurts to hear the pain in his voice, but perhaps that is what will bring him home eventually. I turn to face the room where I see those who claim to love Peter and Alex, yet have never once mentioned their family. Would they have if asked? Or would they paint the Agryis as cold hearted devils who’d sooner demand their souls than treat them with love?
It’s with this in mind I decide I can’t leave without Alex knowing the full truth. For the first time since my awakening, I turn to the room as the Heir and Master of the Agryis Clan. "It’s because I can no longer stay in the home where my enemies reside. For I am Erebos, Master and Creator of the Agryis Clan, General to The Unnamed One, he who is the Darkness of the Soul.”
Half the room looks like they might attack. A shimmer of dark magic casts Prince Ethan in night-black armor. This night at least they won’t be allowed to lay a hand on me.
“You know me because I've known you all your life. I was there with the violence of your birth. How your mother loved you only because Talon loved you. When your father got sick then died, the anger and bitterness she felt toward you and Peter was expected. I am a selfish being, as are all those classified as demons. The part of me that resided in her wanted her gone and for me to take her place.” Now is not the time to coddle Alex with lies. My next words are to show him a view of the last few years without “hero” tinted glasses. “Then you came to Sanctuary. Tell me, did you have a nice life after that? Even if you don't count being in the company of blood drinking night walkers. Nor must you count that they did not take every action to get Peter away from a known repeat pedophile; an event that started my awakening by-the-way. You don’t even have to think your change into one of them a curse. No, the first perhaps was inevitable,” at this my eyes once more flick to The Unnamed One. “The second was partly my fault as I split Eros’ mind long ago, poor boy. The third saved your life and it is the only thing I can be grateful for. Thank you, Xavier!” The small show of fang is worth my brief show of humility. “Oh Alex, do you realize what truly makes this life Hell for you?" Time to burn my last bridge. "Every time Demetrious glairs or says a cutting word on your behalf, you get cut too. Every time you have put time with Peter off for a social occasion that you don't care about. Every time 'Xavier' runs off to be with Flynn instead of you his young fledgling. Every time you wish you'd never gone to Sanctuary because of everything I've said and soooooo much more."
It gives me great satisfaction seeing Demetrious flinch with horror and 'Xavier' jump at me; a curse on his lips in a long dead tongue and the edges of Nyx's black shawl spiriting him on. I will burn him alive with his own rage!
A bright flash and Alex is blocking his way, "No, Master! He is still Peter regardless of who else he claims to be.” He turns to look at me with such pleading. “You are, aren't you?"
I'm staggered. Dark icy flames extinguish moments before they can take light in the Nomad's heart, "Oh, Alex, yes! Peter is still here. He and I are nearly one now. It's difficult to explain, but you haven't and will never lose your brother. I care for him as though he were my own because he is. He and you are my family. Nothing and no one can take that from us. Goodbye my Alex, I love you."
With a touch of my ring, the three of us walk away. The last thing I hear before the doors close is Alex crying and people shouting typical hero nonsense.
Part 5: 70 x 71
I'm almost bored. Vampires do know how to take their time between plots. How easy did they think it would be to "save" Peter when it took The Nomad his whole immortal life just to stop a few of my low levels Lieutenants? On top of that, he essentially castrated the latest of Apollo’s favorite Children for me by falling in love with him. Good job heroes, good job.
I shake my head. These are the thoughts of the old me, the me before knowing Peter and Alex and even the Abo-- Demetrius' coven. No ill thoughts toward Alex's other family. Not if I want him to choose me.
Once, before I was mortal, I possessed a Templar Captain. I wanted to have a little fun and perhaps destroy an enemy in the process. Lucky for me there were two men attempting to take down a shrine to Ashtareth all on their own. This wasn’t the first time their families had attempted it or the last it would be destroyed. Good people had pushed the coward back to his hole since time immortal; by mortal standards at least. No, at my desire's core I just wanted to see a few fools fall. They ran from I and a few possessed men. We followed them from the forest to the mouth of a large dark cave. Their torches they quickly lit just as quickly extinguished with a snap of my fingers. It didn't take them long to realize that while the flame was gone, the heat remained. Every shadow picked it up as though it were dried hay. They rushed to get out only to run through a line of actual fire I'd set while they'd panicked. As they lay burning at my feet, an aura of peace resonated about them. My dark fire was a harsher punishment than burning alive it seemed. Before gasping his last, one of the men mumbled: "I forgive you."
He forgave me. The worst of insults for one who's only known revenge since time immortal.
Yet as I stare out over the Greek coast, I can't help but wonder: if Alex forgives me too, will it cause him just as much pain? If he only ever loves Peter, can that be enough for a selfish creature such as myself?
Before my thoughts get too sweet, Rossa Ryder, my aide steps up with a cup of coffee and two Brussels cookies on a wooden tray.
"Thinking about him again, Sr.?" she asks with all the diplomacy I'd expect from a were-bird, a scarlet macaw in her case.
"Of course. Until we're together again, my nature won't allow any other thought to take hold. It'll be three years to the day one week from tomorrow since I saw him last. They won't even let us video chat since I might lure him into a trap." I'd literally curse them all if I didn't love him so.
"Here's the latest letter from him, Sr. I only know because the handwriting is the same as the others marked no with return address or name."
"Thank you, Miss Ryder, that will be all for tonight." I wait for her departure out the window, a brilliant burst of color against the setting sun,
before sitting down for the evening.
Alex never uses fancy paper or with anything but a stick pen when writing to me. The first letter, one month and two days after my birthday, spoke of his need for discretion. While he didn't feel any danger, he didn't trust Xavier to not tamper with his mail. Apparently, the Nomad didn't like having his arch enemy living with his fledgling for most of his life. Alex wrote nine letters so far, each just a bit more strained in syntax than the last. He had no idea that the Argyris were his kin. He'd just assumed they were attached to father's past and wanted to make trouble for his sons. When asked, each person who knew the truth gave typical responses. The gist: 'Don't peruse because of evil dangerous bad bigger-than-life monsters. P.S. you need us because you're so good and young and fragile.'
Despite all of that, he forgives them. Because he's Alex, the most wonderful person among us all.
Taking a sip of my coffee, I read:
'I know this won't reach you for at least two weeks, because of secrecy, so this will be old news by
the time you get this, but I had to tell you.
You wanted proof that this isn't a trap, well I got it. Last night I took a different path than I
usually take. When I got to the Gareis Museum, a shimmer of red sparks formed what I figured was
a guy at first. But it couldn't have been a man. His eyes glowed and I felt as though he wasn't
all there. Anyway, he approaches me and tells me "I've got a message for you, vamp. The Bringer
sends his regards to the one who's your brother yet not him. He wants him to know slinking pretty
boys like him shouldn't bet against real gods when they know they'll lose! Sissy left you beca-
se she can't stand your whining soppy soulful poetry you insist everyone read! Just because you're
The Unnamed One's court jester, doesn't mean everyone thinks you're funny. So, if you want to win,
get on the--"
Pete, I don't think I can write down the next... several lines. I've had sex that
isn't as graphic as that!
Anyways, he left after saying something about a date with a guy named Sean, and I ran home to
tell you, but the sun was rising. Most nights I love being a vampire, but not being allowed in
the sun is B.S. most nights!
Anyways, how are you? I know, you miss me. But you're nearly twenty-one! By human standards. Do
half human, half Argyris who are actually demon god's keep track of time like the rest of us? I
still do, despite being outside of it. I asked Babette when you were still living with us, and
she said it's just a passing phase that we all get over after a hundred years or so. But I don't
want to phase out of time, not when so much relies on me being on time.
I know I've been avoiding, things, that were said, and done....
I won't make you wait forever. Promise.
Missing you too, '
A turquoise crescent moon is drawn in crayon instead of a signature.
For the first time in memory, I don't care what Old Dusty has to say other than Stephanus seems to be good for him. He owes me for suggesting Master creating them in the first place.
I kiss the paper. Hopefully, my Night Star can feel my love through his ring, knows it's because I'm reading his letter, and realizes that I don't care about what can't be said on paper. If what I offer sissy pays off, he can tell me in person.
The curtains are open to let in the Mother of Night and Shadows.
The mantel clock strikes midnight when the warm spring air cools and all light momentarily flickers out. The darkness recedes to form the tall likeness of a human woman. She's chosen to dress simply in a chiton and iconic shawl. I see deeper than the surface, though, and the only thing that's changed in the eons I've known her is the scowl on her divine face. Though that's probably just for me.
"Sissy..." I begin, but she stops me with a raised hand.
"Don't! I have come at the request of Lady Persephone. I figure if anyone hates you more than I, it is she. After you tempted her and placed the nature of this entire realm under your care, if she wishes me here there must be a good reason."
'Voice soft and appropriately demure, who would take her to be the Mother of Vampires?' I muse before what she said side tracks what I asked her here to say, "Wait a two-cent minute, I did Demeter a favor! Persephone was a spoiled brat before I led her to Hades side. I only did my job. But are they happy? Nope! Because I'm Darkness, I'm Chaos, I can't make the universe better by being a part of it. I'm just the bringer of evil."
Nyx raises a not-haughty eyebrow. "And therein lies your problem, brother. It's never your fault." A pathetic shake of her head. "I know what you want. Not why I'm here, but what you want is as obvious as the form is as obvious as the form you've taken. You want me to release Alexander, brother to," she gestures at Peter's body, "in order to assuage your guilt."
"And what guilt is that?" I have a sinking feeling I know, but it's also been planned for. I've been waging war against her for what seems like forever after all.
"The Judge," she all but purrs.
"The... Judge?" He crossed my mind, but I was almost certain she'd go for a more obvious target, like the slimy Greg, or perhaps the Nomad.
"If it weren't for him, his son never would have been free to start any of this. If he'd been stopped sooner, Alexander would not have had to be turned. What is your recant to that, brother?"
Old anger turns my voice to snapping arctic wind, "For the record, because my better half is smart but doesn't quite understand: you just told me that I'm so selfish I'd let a Judge turn a blind eye to his pedophile son, yes? All so he'd marry the one woman who was widowed and mother to two of my Children. Who I in turn push to almost rape my mortal form. And all so he can run to my romantic rival. What you are saying is if I hadn't done that, my beloved brother wouldn't have felt the need to save our life thus forcing a connection to your precious Nomad. This is all my fault, a plan gone a bit wrong?"
"I wouldn't put it that way, but yes."
Who had she been talking to? Pythia? Now there's a girl who never should have looked directly at the sun.
"Sissy," a squinty-eyed look, "Nyx. I am not The Unnamed One. I don't know the future. I may have seeded the mortal soul, but I don't... rarely! make them do anything. And never would I put my Children in danger!"
"But I am not wrong about Alexander."
"No, you're not. I want the curse on him lifted, or at least eased. But not to alleviate guilt. It was his choice to go to Sanctuary and to save us.
He had to be turned."
"Then why? Because your host body longs for his brother?"
She's genuinely confused? A rare moment for such a wise being. I take a moment to revel even as I grimace with hurt.
"Am I so different than the last time I saw you?" At her silent stair, I go over to the serving station, taking my time making a pot of coffee. I don't actually want a cup, but I can't look at her as I talk either.
"First, he's not my 'host body', he is me the same as a child is the adult but younger, and vice versa. If a grownup cries like a child, in a sense the child comes to the surface. I am the adult and Peter is the child."
I stop for a moment to stir in a bit of cream and sugar. It's not how I like it, but Peter does, and sometimes one must let their inner child take control.
"As for Alex," I carefully pronounce his name. Only selfish pretentious jerks call him 'Alexander', "he's family. I hope you at least remember that I put family first. It's what started me on this path in the first place. Alex is the pinnacle of my achievement. The perfect balance of what is human and what is Argyris."
"So, he is an accomplishment? The brightest gem in your crown?"
"Yes." I won't take back what I've said when it's clearly true. "Alex is perfect. But I didn't realize that until I saw him through the eyes of Peter. Absolute love and trust returned a thousand times over. Through him, I remember Alex picking Peter up from the bus stop, while mom worked just long enough to move us again. Or Alex checking in while out on a date, and coming home because Peter was scared. He wasn't truly scared, though. Just selfish and needy and lonely, just like me. Our Night Star, our light in a dark world reminding us that the night is not to be feared but to fear what is in the darkness. Such as beings like me." And isn't that a stark confession. "I am sorry that I made them fear you. It's my one regret and one that will never leave me." Remembering that I haven't heard Alex's voice in nearly three years brings Peter to the surface. I turn to face the woman who once was to me what Alex once was to Peter. I might never get her back, but perhaps... "Sissy please, let Alex go?"
"Hm, lucky for you my Children want a resolution to this problem as well. I've been working with Xavier and Demetrius for a little under two Earth months. At first, both wanted to somehow remove you from Peter. Thankfully Babette found a way to contact me before a solid plan could be formed. I managed to convince them to contact the Argyris properly and find out if they knew anything more that previous talks did not uncover. They knew about as much about their magical biology as they used to know about vampires. You don't teach your Children well, do you? Nevermind. It was then that Persephone came with your request to see me. I had hoped you knew a way to extract yourself from the boy, but it seems to have been a hope made in futility." Her eyes focus on my ring. Voice once on the edge of haughty turns sad, as if she knows something of the future. "Alexander knows nothing yet. This story is nearly at an end, brother, an end only you and he can decide on. When my shadows touch them next, I will tell them what we've discussed, Alexander included. He will be coming to your party; he and no one else. If it is his wish to stay with you as more than a brother, as long as it is not out of anything but his most sincere wish, I will grant him the blessing of walking in the sun, though it will take a number of months for the full effect. I cannot fully take his need for blood, but he will be able to consume anything he could before the change. His bite will not change anyone. His connection to my Children will remain albeit weaker in relation to Demetrius. This is for his sake and not yours. Finally, he will live as long as you remain in this form. The ways you will be connected will have unpredictable sidefects."
She turns to the window. I feel the dawn approaching and her retreating. How Apollo gained her favor when they are so different might just allude me forever.
Before she goes, there is something I must know, "Sissy, what do you get out of this? I haven't even told you what I'm willing to offer."
Nyx turns her head just slightly even as the dawn takes her, "He is my Child, Erebos, regardless of what choice he makes. I love him the way only a mother can. This is my gift to him. As for you, dear brother, I will forgive you for turning them against me. That will be payment enough, for both of us," and as shadow exposed to light, she is gone.
Part 6: A brother's love
Though my birthday was two days ago, tonight is a waning crescent moon. The party is in honor of Alex just as much as it is for me.
What Nyx said angered me for a full day after. But then it hit me: this meant I was no longer at war with her. No more need to retaliate. No need to focus on her at all if I so choose. I can focus completely on Alex if that's what he wants.
The party only has a few members of the staff my grandparents and a few other trusted Argyris. We make small talk until a bright orange and green classic VW beetle pulls up. Alex is in the passenger seat while a man who can only be Corey Rudman from Miskatonic University, a man I only know from reputation. I thought Alex was supposed to be coming alone?
"This place looks amazing! I mean you'd think I'd be used to beach front property with my best friend being a merman and all, but this place looks like a resort. Top notch Mr. E." Mr. Rudman gets out of the car and proceeds to vigorously shake my hand.
"Corey, don't... Ah, sorry, I told him not to do anything that might make you uncomfortable." Alex is smiling, but there's something different about his behavior.
"It's alright, I'm just glad you're here."
"So am I. It's been too long and there are things you can't say on paper." He shakes his head and starts unloading several bags. "Anyway, Corey, this is Pete, or should I call you Erebos?"
"Whatever you feel comfortable with." I'm overwhelmed just having him here. It must be the Argyris in Peter. I know I'm in love, but this is almost too much.
His mysterious smile intensifies. "This is my brother. And this is Corey. He's here from the University at Miskatonic for research, I'm sure, but also as my day man. He won't cause any trouble, will you Cor?"
"Not one bit, Mr. E. I'm just going to go party! Call me if you need me!" And with that, the living piñata runs down the beach to the party proper.
"He's a good guy..." Alex's eyes follow Corey wistfully as if he just said goodbye for the last time to an old friend.
"I'm sure, but Alex..."
He turns that look on me, and I'm silenced, "I'll be here for at least two weeks. We have time." Then it's back to his normal smile and I'm smiling, because he always makes me smile. "Race you down to the bonfire? I promise I'll use human speed." And with that, we’re running and laughing and it's as if the past nine years never happened.
That first night flies by. Everyone dances around the fire like we're all possessed. We laugh as Corey attempts to lead some of the staff in a round of what he swears are Mer songs. The next two nights are spent with family. All are married and two pairs have young children. It gives Alex his first exposure at being Argyris.
The fourth night Corey takes up our time asking me questions. I attempt to be nice, for Alex, but there is a reason I stick to the shadows and behind people's hearts. I survive, only because Alex sits next to me as he reads.
The fifth night I have to take care of business that can't be done during lit hours.
It's the sixth night. Alex has had his donor, Corey is sleeping, the butler is on call if we need him. At long last we're alone.
"Alex, is tonight a good night to talk?" That was pure child Peter.
Alex looks up from his useless cup of tea and it almost pulls me from my chair. "Alright. I have a few things I want to talk about anyway, a few things that need to be said." He sips the tea even though it must be revolting to his vampire senses. "First, your opinion on me Demetrius is probably all wrong. We've been physically together for years, but only because we're connected by a blood bond. I've been feeding him and the Nomad being our sire ties us together. Blood shared between vampires often gets very physical." He laughs at the face I pull. "Don't tell me you haven't gotten off thinking about my fangs sliding into a vein more than once."
I blink slowly thinking this should be harder than this. "And you're okay with that? Me thinking about you in that way?" He's acting so casual. Does he think this isn't serious?
He sets his tea down and folds his hands. Between us is a fire, and isn't that the story of the last few eons.
"I'll admit, at first it... shocked me, to think that my little brother felt that way at all. It wasn't long ago that I was changing your diapers and telling you bedtime stories."
I blush and groan as he sniggers.
After a moment, he continues a bit more seriously, "Then you kissed my cheek, and I knew I had to pull back. I was not going to be a pedophile, especially not to my own brother, and not when you were potentially still traumatized by Greg!" He sits back, looking not at the ceiling but at the past. "You probably don't even know half the story of that night. We, me Demetrius Xavier Babette and to a lesser extent Hans and Isolde, had been looking into our past from the night I'd been turned. All I knew was what dad had said about how he and mom met. Isolde of all people had heard a rumor about the Argyris and how vampires plus Argyris make people like I was in those first few minutes. I'm guessing that's when you found yourself?"
"Yes, about that..."
Alex holds up a hand, "Latter, or not at all. We all change and find more about ourselves as we age. You're you, whoever that is and that's enough for me."
I have nothing to say to that. Only Nyx had ever come close to that without wanting something, even if that was their own death, and she turned on me the moment I hurt her. Somehow, I don't think Alex would turn on me if I shot him and he couldn't heal instantly.
"Anyway, we'd been looking for nine months, tracking down leads and the like, when we found them. Only Demetrius and Xavier had already found them four months before and hadn't told me. Xavier is my Master, he has a right to withhold anything he wants for whatever reason he wants and not give a reason. But he didn't tell Demetrius not to tell me. He gave the usual explanation about protecting me. Some part of me understood, but I didn't want to that night. When I saw you, my heart ached for what we had before this mess. It wasn't perfect after dad died. Actually, it was worse in some ways. I came home one night to mom looking and smelling like she'd been in a bar fight, and you were crying next to her. You were hungry and tired but too small to get either for yourself."
"I remember. I still get upset if I'm not fed." My stomach flips just thinking about it.
"I nearly ran away that night with mom. But we had nowhere to go. Or rather we did and I just didn't know. That's why Demetrius not telling me about them hurt so much. In that moment, he was just as bad as Dad, trying to protect us with no clue as to what or who we were. Once again, all I wanted was to run away with you. When Demetrius said he wanted to come with us, I felt obligated to keep a strong face for you."
"But you didn't! Just you being with me has always been enough. We don't even have to be anything else besides brothers if that's what you want. I love you. I as Peter, and I as Erebos, and I as just me! I'm not a child anymore. You never could hurt me, but now for sure."
"I know. And I know I've told you most of this one way or another in my letters. But as I've said before, there are some things you can only say in person." He makes to drink more tea but stops as if realizing it won't agree with him later. "After that night, I wanted to put on a good front for you. I wanted a happy family. For a moment in time, I had that with you and Demetrius, even if we weren’t 'together' like that."
"But I despise him. I even call him 'abomination' in my thoughts." It's bad enough that Alex finds him attractive, but being together because of me? As family? Icky, yucky, no, no, bad!
"Oh, don't I know it. Not the latter bit, but you used to follow Demetrius around with a small glare. I found it cute, like a child not accepting a step-parent. Demetrius and even Xavier wanted to ship you to private school because they thought I was somehow controlling you."
No, Peter merely had the revelation that was me."What stopped them? Bang-buddy and Master aside, you cave to those two easily."
"You'll never believe me."
I raise an eyebrow in challenge.
"It was Flynn."
"Ex… excuse me? Did you just say...? That sunspot stopped me from being shipped out. Why? His father and I have been trying to kill or otherwise destroy the other since we were created." Apollo's kid saving me was unacceptable. I'd rather cover my clothes with pink hearts and kittens than this.
"Why?" The question is stated so calmly. What does one say when the answer stretches back to just before the dawn of time?
"Because we're opposites. In your world, that may not mean much, but in mine, it means galaxies are shaped by what we do. I bring nations to the Falls of Oblivion, while he gives entire world's hope. It's just what we do. We must clash. Every one of his Children fight mine. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn't want to kill anyone. I corrupt everyone, even my own sister. Why would you want me?! The monster that's responsible for every other monster out there!"
I don't know where these thoughts came from. Are they Peters'? Thinking these things and saying them to Alex are vastly different. We were talking about Demi-dork, not.. not...
Warm arms wrap around my shoulders. I'm shaking. With laughter and rage from wounds I thought were welded shut long ago. Alex turns my face up, and what I see I almost don't recognize. It's a face I haven't seen up close for too long.
"You're not the only one who wants redemption brother," and just like that I'm being kissed, not just by Alex but by Apollo as well.
The room is lit so brightly that the fire seems dark. No shadows here. No cold or fear or sadness, only love and tears of joy.
He pulls me from the chair and lays me down on soft ground to which likeness there is no other. Shirts are tossed, mouths move, hands touch for the first time as lovers and not just brothers; though nothing is lost in that sense either.
Slowly Alex and the being I thought I'd shunned years ago pulls back for a moment. He looks down at me, at us, his fingers comb through our hair. "Do you want this? I won't continue if I'm not forgiven, if I'm not wanted."
"Who wants forgiveness and for what?" Why did he stop?
He kisses my forehead, "Both of us. Alex for abandoning you so often that Greg happened. Apollo for abandoning you to The Unnamed One's tender mercies when you showed signs of not being perfectly good. Then we both retreated to another because our pain was too much. We should have been trying to help you, instead we all but lost you."
The hurt in his voice should bring great joy to Erebos and sadness to Peter, instead something pushes us to altruism for once. "That may be an issue in the future brother, but for now all we want is you, however that may look. It won’t be easy at all, but I'll forgive you tonight, and let my heart heal from there. Just knowing you haven't abandoned me again is enough." I push him onto his back, "Unless this is just one big plot to kill me while my guard is down, because I all but invented a knife in the back, so I'd know and have to kill you first." I'm only half joking. Neither of us has earned the right for it not to be.
When I look into his eyes and see every star in the night sky, I realize I've known all along Alex had a doppelganger. "If I wanted to harm you, Peter sleeps like the dead and snores loud enough to wake them. I don't want you dead, I want you where I can keep you. Take this from the depth of both of our soul: you couldn't escape the Dawn if you ran to the edge of Oblivion."
The next time we talk, we've somehow made it into a bed. The sun shines brightly, and it's day time too. Alex yawns, not used to being awake during the day.
"We really should tell Nyx thank you again. She told me to ask your forgiveness in the first place, and allowed Alex and I to merge. Thanks to her I’m to Alex as you are to Peter, without pushing my will onto his like you did at first."
I raise a glass of water in toast, "To Nyx, the best of us by a mile and a day, or rather night."
"And to family, whatever our opinion of them."
I pull back, rubbing at a vampire hickey along a pectoral, "Will you go back to them?" I wouldn't be surprised if he did leave again.
"Eventually. They are family after all. But not for a while and not without you. Brother, lover, enemy, you are my most important person. I wouldn’t leave you if the next cycle happened today and The Unnamed One tried to pull us apart, and I’ll prove it to you." He takes the necklace with my ring off then his. “With love and trust I give to thee my power and power over all I am,” as he says this, he slips my necklace and ring back over my head, followed by kissing both of my cheeks and the ring.
It’s an old Argyris tradition. Not marriage per-se, that is for the public eye and involves the spilling of much blood. This is much more intimate and just for those involved.
“With love and trust, I give to thee my power and power over all I am,” I repeat, draping his necklace back over his head and kissing his forehead chin and ring. We finish with a kiss, then more as passions rise. 'I may have to get a transfusion after this', I muse, feeling his fangs gently pierce my lip and tongue. Hmm, now isn’t that a pleasant thought.
Hours later, I snuggle into the blankets next to him, loving him and his warmth. Perhaps at the end of all cycles, The Unnamed One knows if we survive as this. Will we be like we are? Alex and Peter, Apollo and Erebos, brother’s lovers and enemies? Will we be there at all?
For a second I feel icy water all around me and am reminded that it's never wise to bet on the Devil in the pale moonlight, because even when you win you lose.